Monday 23 April 2018

'The nicest thing I can say about Martin Johnson is that he's unbearable'

"AND SO this morning we say 'hello' to the remainder of our lives, we gallant survivors of those near-cataclysmic collisions with Jupiter.

"And we say thanks too, we relieved relics of the longest month in living memory, tossed about on the raging, billowing seas of the World Cup.

"We've come through and if you detect from the foregoing that one TV viewer, at least, has had a super-abundance of TV World Cup, you would probably be correct.

"Even an undiluted, unrelieved diet of strawberries and cream palls after a month.

"There comes a time when most red-blooded Irish He-men will plead for the return to their staple beans on toast and shredded wheat."

March 18, 1996 - The day after the conclusion of the first professional Five Nations Championship, Sean was less than impressed by an Ireland defeat in Twickenham to a physical England side who claimed a Grand Slam

"Dean Richards (pictured right) made his Neanderthal gesture. It spoke volumes. To blazes with the stupid 'move the ball' stuff. Let's bring on the power and grind them to dust.

"In the recent amateur past it was decreed that rugby was a players' game, exclusively. If the players wished to squelch around like playful hippos, well and good. It was their choice.

"And if the spectator wished to turn up and watch, that was okay too. But in the new departure, with the turning of rugby into a business and players being paid to entertain, the old ways are effectively eliminated.

"Overall then, the denouement of the season, the first full Five Nations professional season did not cover itself in glory.

"The imbalance between overwhelming power and real skill was never clearer."

april 3, 1998 – Sean was less than happy when Sky Sports picked up England's Six Nations television rights during the 1990s

"Isn't it just like the highway robbery of old, this Sky Sports advertisement we've been subjected to over the past week.

"A slight variation on the ancient 'your money or your life' threat. "Your money or no Twickenham," says they.

"Oh sure, we'll see it later when the whole affair is cut and dried and RTE and UTV will then be graciously allowed to screen the event which, of course, will not be a sports commentary, merely an illustrated history lecture.

"So tomorrow, it's a case of 'Swing very, very low, Sweet Chariot'. I'll be watching the Grand National."

september 27, 1999 – Sean was less than impressed by American conduct at the brookline Ryder Cup

"I WARNED Teddy Roosevelt. 'Teddy,' I said, 'no good will come of it. Texas Rough Riders galloping off in all directions, yahooing all over America. Guns blazing. It set a bad, bad example and look at the inevitable outcome? Brookline!'

"Teddy dismissed all advice, totally unlike his relative, Franklin D, when he later became president. Decent man. So the He-men, Walter Winchell, loud-mouthed Senator Joe McCarthy tradition has obviously been ingrained in a goodly proportion of the American golf spectator.

"Harsh? I don't think so. And the unfortunate factor was that too many of the American players were urging the crowd to up its antics.

"For Europe, it was playing golf in a bear pit. If the USA wanted to win that way, well so long. Tom Lehman (pictured above), in particular, was offensive. 'Tis a far, far different world from the Royal & Ancient or even, come to think of it, Elm Park. The big puzzle is why the barrackers, jeerers, booers, bustlers and camera flashers turned up in the first place? Is it that the Ryder Cup is really a defence of the Alamo?"

March 31, 2001 – In the aftermath of Roy Keane's call for higher standards from the FAI, Sean did the same for Dublin Bus

"AS for Roy Keane and cramped leg-room in the economy section of the Airbus, quite right to complain. But has Roy, I wonder, ever travelled on the 46A bus?

"The legroom is so restricted on the 46A that the manufacturers must have delivered their produce believing all Irish passengers were leprechauns.

"Roy Keane has done a national service in highlighting the problem – at least in the air. Let that be proclaimed from on high. Now he must be enrolled to lead a groundswell on the, er, ground as well.

"A national campaign. Irish men and Irish women are getting taller, so let us arise and demand more legroom. Scoring goals against Cyprus and Andorra has its place in the scheme of things (no cliches in this column, I'll have you know), but the basics of civilisation must be the priority. If it's a question of qualifying for the World Cup or providing decent legroom, the legs win and no arguments brooked."

March 29, 2008 – Sean was not Martin Johnson's biggest fan

"Having given it a fair degree of consideration, the nicest thing I can say about Martin Johnson is that he's unbearable.

"And now the English Rugby Union are contemplating making him the manager of England's international rugby set-up and the story goes that he is demanding to be made the supremo, the boss of the coach Brian Ashton, the dictator of team selections and, no doubt, recalling that Lansdowne Road incident and the red carpet and the insult to President McAleese, his appearance next season at Croke Park would certainly be destined to cause a raised eyebrow or two.

"That Johnson, now 38, was a talented and tough lock and a capable captain of the Lions and England in the years gone by is not disputed. Players, officials and the English media have extolled his merits, but details of his less than exemplary behaviour have been, conveniently, swept beneath that red carpet."

March 21, 2009 – On the morning Ireland claimed a second Grand Slam, Sean recalled the heroes of 1948

"The unique Grand Slam, we have called it for over 60 years. Unique, solitary, exclusive, nonpareil, Irish rugby's golden year. But what should be remembered is that it was not just a single season of success.

"That team of Karl Mullen and Jack Kyle in 1948 was the jewel in the crown, but the period was a golden era. Following a near miss for the Triple Crown in 1947, over the next four years there was that remarkable Five Nations Grand Slam, two Triple Crowns ('48 and '49) and two championship successes ('49 and '51).

"Three Five Nations championships in four seasons surpassed anything in Ireland's rugby history and nothing remotely equalled it until full-time professionalism intruded in more recent times.

"What had that 1948 team that made it so successful, so different and not just from Irish teams, but among all the Five Nations? They were smaller and lighter than their opponents, but they were a flying outfit of the greyhound breed.

"They were the perfect blend. Excellent players, fitting, as has been said, like gloves in every position. It was as if some gifted spirit had drawn a deliberate blueprint and found the ideal personnel to fill every facet of the team.

"And that wasn't just us bright-eyed youngsters as we viewed affairs from the terraces. Historical reporting has made it clear that Karl Mullen's hooking ensured a plethora of possession for Jack Kyle, who, if you'll pardon a bit of self-indulgence, is the greatest out-half I've ever seen."

february 16, 2013 – SEAN'S FINAL COLUMN

Nowadays a player is nominated to talk to everybody in every aspect of the media. And talk mostly nonsense.

COMPILED BY RUAIDHRI O'CONNOR

Irish Independent

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